VICTORIA -- BC Ferries is increasing service along its Southern Gulf Islands routes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting on June 9, sailings will resume between Vancouver’s Tsawwassen terminal and Salt Spring Island’s Long Harbour.

Meanwhile, service between Victoria’s Swartz Bay terminal and the communities along the Southern Gulf Islands route will return to winter seasonal service levels.

The Southern Gulf Islands route includes sailings between Swartz Bay, Saturna Island, Mayne Island, Galiano Island and Pender Island. BC Ferries's full schedule for this route can be found online here.

Reservations for sailings between Tsawwassen and Long Harbour can now be booked. BC Ferries says that vessels along this route can be 100 per cent reserved, and notes that only customers with proof of bookings will be assured a spot on each sailing.

BC Ferries adds that all ferries continue to operate at 50 per cent maximum passenger capacity as mandated by Transport Canada to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Passengers are encouraged to reserve spots or arrive at ferry terminals well ahead of their departure time to ensure they can get a spot onboard.

“BC Ferries’s priority is the health and safety of our customers and employees, and the company will strictly adhere to provincial and federal guidelines during this gradual resumption of service,” said the company in a release Tuesday.

The safety measures include limiting passenger capacity to 50 per cent, screening travellers before they are allowed on ferries, allowing passengers to remain in their cars on all vehicle decks during sailing and enhanced cleaning policies.

After laying off hundreds of employees due to reduced demand, BC Ferries says that the restarting of these routes will allow the company to rehire some employees.

Further information on BC Ferries sailing schedules can be found on the company’s website here